I commenced reading Claire Zorn’s novel One Would Think the Deep from a strange little place I like to call ‘fearful anticipation’. Zorn’s last book The Protected was a multi-award winning novel. Having had the opportunity to read an advance copy of this I was not surprised. I honestly believe that what Zorn penned in this book was nothing short of a masterpiece; in fact it is a story with the kind of longevity that will entertain YA readers for a very long time. It follows then, that I was both excited and fearful about the opportunity to review her latest offering.
As a piece of retro fiction, Zorn begins her story New Year’s Day 1997. Perhaps I am just getting old but this really doesn’t seem all that long ago. Of course, I do remember this rather nostalgically as being that wonderful time before the internet had really taken off and before mobile phones were commonplace (and if you did have one you were either really rich or a drug dealer). Like Zorn, I remember the time for its music. It was a period when cd’s were expensive and you waited with bated breath for the latest import from your local indie record store.
Sam Hudson, a skater from inner city Sydney, moves to live by the coast with his Aunt Lorraine and cousins Minty and Shane following the sudden death of his mother. He brings with him an understandable amount of emotional baggage which too often manifests itself as violence. This is a sensitive story about love, the fragmentation of family and the pain of grief.
As with Zorn’s other novels, the narrative is driven by sensitively composed language and a cast of memorable characters. In fact, the real strength of this story is in the unforgettable cast of minor characters, especially Aunty Lorraine, who feels like she might be straight out of an episode of Struggle Street, the deeply complex and equally troubled Ruby and his surfie, slash bogan, cousins, Minty and Shane. There is certainly enough material here for another three or four novels should Zorn wish to explore them.
One Would Think the Deep is a skilfully crafted novel that will resonate with readers from the upper end of the middle years through to senior students. While it was an engaging read, and while I applaud Zorn again for her mastery as a storyteller, unlike The Protected, it never quite took me to that exceedingly rare place that truly remarkable novels do.